Driving to work one morning, I listened to a song by a musician I like. A friend had recommended him to me, and I thought about how I might not have discovered his music otherwise. What an ordinary but wonderful reminder of all the ways that the people in my life have shaped who I am. People have been and continue to be the most concrete and earthly expressions of grace I know. My life is so much richer because of the people in it, even in ways as simple as the music I enjoy, my taste in literature and visual art, and the recreational activities that I devote my time to.
Even an introvert like me recognizes the need for and value of community and all the people who at different times have been part of mine. I am reminded how much Jesus’ life can teach us about relationships, and John 15:1-8 is a good example. Jesus wants so much to be in relationship with us that he uses the metaphor of a vine and its branches to describe the bond. If we cut ourselves off from relationship with him, we will not experience growth. But if we stay in relationship with Jesus, our lives can “bear much fruit” (NIV).
From Jesus to eunuchs to grandmothers and good friends, I am convinced that among the most important manifestations of God’s grace is the people we encounter—the people who make our lives richer, fuller, and, in the more challenging times, bearable. They show us how to love, how to do good to others, guide us past our obstacles, and, even unwittingly, help us find our way along life’s path.
God, thank you for the gift of community that shapes and supports me. Help me to be a faithful companion to the people in my life. Amen.
Two primary themes emerge from our readings for this week. In Psalm 22, we find the promise that faraway nations will turn and worship the Lord. The book of Acts provides partial fulfillment of this promise. Through the action of the Spirit, a court official from Ethiopia hears the gospel and can take it home to his native land. The Johannine readings focus on abiding in God. “God is love,” the epistle states, so all who claim to abide in God manifest love to the world. The author pushes the point: If we maintain animosity toward others, we cannot claim to remain in the love of God. In John, Jesus states that we must remain in him if we want to bear good fruit for God.
Read Acts 8:26-40. When has an unexpected encounter led you to a deeper understanding of God?
Read Psalm 22:25-31. Recalling that Psalm 22 begins with the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” do these verses of praise seem surprising? When have you seen this kind of movement in your spiritual journey?
Read 1 John 4:7-21. How does your assurance of God’s love for you move you to love others?
Read John 15:1-8. How secure do you feel about being attached to the vine? What has God done in your life to make it more productive?
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